Relief from Sanctions in Libel Claim

Beth Grossman representing the care home defendant in a libel claim Rochester v Ingham House Ltd [2019] 2 WLUK 25, successfully obtained relief from sanctions retrospectively extending time for service of a defence.

Following cross-applications for strike out and summary judgment in December 2018, Popplewell J ordered that the Claimant’s defamatory meanings should be included within an amended Defence to take account of the Claimant’s status as a litigant in person and further ordered that an expedited transcript of judgment be provided to enable the Defendant to reproduce the relevant pleadings. The Defendant applied for an extension of time due to the court’s delay in providing the transcript, which only became available on 15 January 2019. On 18 January 2019, the Defendant received a copy of the order for the extension of time and discovered that it only provided until the end of that day. The amended Defence was filed and served at 4.49 pm on that day.

In judgment, Nicklin J, applying the well-known principles for relief from sanctions found in Denton v TH White [2014] EWCA Civ 906,  found that the significance of the breach was limited, under the Civil Procedure Rules to one day and in practical terms to 50 minutes. In assessing the reasons for the breach, Nicklin J found that the underlying cause was the delay in provision of the  judgment transcript and considered that there was force in the Defendant’s submissions that it had anticipated an expedited transcript, which it could not have known would not be received until 15 January 2019. In considering all the circumstances, the refusal to grant relief as a significant and disproportionate sanction.

Nicklin J’s Judgment is significant where it comes to consideration of the reasons for breach (stage 2 of the Denton test), exploring the full context of when and how the situation arose.

This is the second  reported Judgment in this libel action, following Rochester v Ingham House Ltd [2018] EWHC 3599 (QB) in which the Defendant, represented by Beth, succeeded in striking out part of the Claimant’s claim.


6th February 2019